That’s what I wanted to shout as I sat in the quiet church service. We were singing a stirring song of praise, but many seemed to be whispering or not even singing.
I felt the need to turn down my volume so I wouldn’t stand out. But my frustration grew as I wondered why others weren’t audibly declaring their affection to their Savior.
Whether you are more introverted or extroverted, more reserved or more expressive, worshipping God is an important part of our faith.
While I was tempted to boss the congregants into singing with more gusto, two sisters from Bethany (in Luke 10:38-42) changed my perspective. Their story taught me a thing (or four) about worshipping God.
Mary and Martha in the Bible: Two Different Approaches to Worship
Mary and Martha in the Bible were friends of Jesus (as was their brother, Lazarus). They welcomed Jesus and his followers into their home.
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him, while Martha was worried and distracted by the preparations for their guests.
Martha felt all alone in her serving so she asked Jesus to tell her sister to lend a hand.
Jesus responded to her (in Luke 10:41-42): “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
For centuries, women who are made like Martha have felt guilty for being wired as a doer, based on this biblical account. But let’s pull back the curtain to see what’s really going on.
What can we learn about worship from this exchange between Jesus and Martha?
Was Jesus asking Martha to stop doing in order to sit? Or did His correction go beyond the obvious?
What if Jesus wasn’t even asking Martha to sit down physically, but was inviting her to choose to worship Him, even while she served?
Jesus showed Martha the importance of making His Presence a priority, like Mary was doing, even in the midst of the busyness of life.
Guess what! This post is part of a series on Great Women of the Bible.
Be sure to check out all of the other posts in this series here: 15 Great Women of the Bible Every Christian Woman Should Study.
4 Lessons We Can Learn About Worship From Mary and Martha in the Bible
1. There is More Than One Way to Worship God
In John 12:1-3, we see a diverse picture of worship from Martha, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.
Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Martha served, Lazarus rested, and Mary poured out a lavish offering.
Often we focus on Mary’s beautiful expression of worship but we overlook how her sister and brother were worshipping too.
These siblings, and friends of Jesus expressed their love for Jesus in ways that were unique to their temperaments, yet each demonstrated sincere devotion to His place in their hearts.
We don’t have to worship God in the same way as our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we should focus on Him as we do, not on the distractions around us.
2. Worship is More About Heart Posture Than Physical Posture
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him speak. Her posture demonstrated humility and receptivity, giving the Lord her time and attention.
While bowing our knees and raising our hands can express worship, it’s more important that our hearts are pliable and focused on our object of worship. Someone could be singing loudly in church, yet their motivation is to be heard and seen. Someone else could be sitting down, not moving a muscle, and their heart could be more attuned to the King of Kings than anyone else in the sanctuary.
It is not our job to judge others for their expressions of worship, but it is important that—whether we are serving, resting, or sitting—we focus our attention and affection on the One who is worthy of our praise.
3. Worship is Simply Loving God Back
Mother of fourteen and singer/songwriter, Niki Homan, defines it this way, “Worship is simply loving God back.”
Often we make worship complicated, or about us, but worship is the way we demonstrate how grateful we are for who God is and who we are in light of Him. God has created us, saved us, and proven His love for us on the cross (John 3:16). Worship is a conscious choice to give thanks to God and return our love to Him.
Connecting with God during times of Bible reading and prayer are important, and singing to Him showcases our gratitude, but these are not the only ways to worship God.
In John 12:1-3, Jesus does not correct Martha again for being worried and distracted while serving. This shows us that Martha’s heart changed, not her personality. After Martha’s revelation of who Jesus is (in John 11:21-27), we see her serving from a place of peace instead of panic, worshipping God in her service to Him.
Whether on a walk, observing creation, tackling a sink load of dirty dishes, or intently listening to a loved one pour out their heart, you can worship as you go about your day.
Like Mary and Martha in the Bible, when you welcome others into your home, you can worship God by the way you care for them.
Sure, there is a time to soak in His Presence—to sit in quiet contemplation or raise our hands, in praise. But we can also worship Jesus even when our hands are busy.
We don’t have to worship first and then work, we can worship while we work.
Because Christ lives in us, by faith, we carry Him as we go about our daily tasks. He is not isolated to our quiet times or worship services. Our whole lives can be an act or worship, in our coming and our going, in resting and playing, in eating and working.
Remember, you can worship God in many ways. Your heart posture, in worship, matters more than your physical posture. Don’t complicate worship, it’s simply loving God back. Experience peace as you focus on Him throughout your day.
Mary and Martha in the Bible (and Lazarus) were each loved by God (John 11:5). It was His love for each of these siblings that inspired them to worship Him fully, in their unique ways.
Now, it’s your turn. Take some time to demonstrate your devotion to God in a way that best expresses your gratitude to Him.
Do you find yourself to be more like Mary, Martha, or Lazarus in your worship? When is your favorite time to worship as you go about your day?
Katie M. Reid is a devoted wife and mom to five lively children. She is a national speaker and author of, Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done. Katie is the co-host of The Martha + Mary Show podcast. Discover how to stress less and smile more at katiemreid.com and text MARTHA to 33777 to sign-up for Katie’s uplifting email newsletter.